Wrap Up | December 2018
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War and Peace | Leo Tolstoy - That’s right friends, I FINISHED! I’m still kind of unpacking the novel, but I finished War and Peace, and it was sincerely amazing. It deserves 5 stars for sheer scope alone, but the characters, the playing with micro/macro, the themes, just everything, all combined to make one seriously (giant) powerful read. I also learned arguably too much about 19th century warfare tactics and logistics. Truly though, this book is obviously very long, but it is actually beautifully, compulsively readable, and the characters, their choices, their romances, their lives are the heart and drive of the novel. Andrey was probably my favorite (I love me some angst!), but Pierre and Natasha and all the rest feel just as alive and interesting to me. I will say, if you’re considering reading this, it is WELL worth it to compare translations and choose one that works for you! If you don’t want to commit to the book yet, I highly recommend that you watch the 2016 mini series; it is so, so well done, and you will immediately see why this novel is such an enduring story. This was the most stand out reading experience of my year, and I’m so glad I took the time to read this novel. Anna Karenina (again, but in a different translation) next!
Spinning Silver | Naomi Novik- I honestly didn’t like this one as much as Uprooted. It felt a little messier, was a little harder to follow (some stuff wasn’t really explained??), and I wasn’t as attached to the characters. I did like having so many bad ass ladies running the show, and I thought it was a clever twist on the Rumplestiltskin fairytale. Novik’s writing is also just really enjoyable to read, and she builds atmosphere beautifully. So, still a solid read, but not going on my favorites list. Thanks so much to the publisher for gifting us a copy!
The Nutcracker | E.T.A. Hoffman + The Tale of the Nutcracker | Alexandre Dumas- If you pick this up, you’re in for Christmas magic, the feeling of being a child at this time of year, lush descriptions, and a tale that is a beloved classic. It does differ from the ballet a bit, and is a tad darker (most old fairy tales are), but I see echoes of Beauty and the Beast, of Narnia, and of Sleeping Beauty in this story. It’s a wonderful description of an old fashioned Christmas, a princess story, a battle between good and evil, and a magical trip through a Christmas wonderland packed into 60 short pages. In Dumas’ version, the narrator is telling a group of children the story of the Nutcracker by E.T.A. Hoffman, but he adds and embellishes a lot of details, so it’s actually a more lively story to read, while still being faithful to the original. All in all, an evening well spent reading by my Christmas tree, and the perfect story to get me to feel some of that holiday magic.
“The Fir Tree” + “The Snow Queen” | Hans Christian Anderson- The Fir Tree was a quick little tale with a clear message that I loved, but was kind of sad. I really really loved The Snow Queen though, it has all the elements I most enjoy in fairytales: a quest, a witch, sassy characters, whimsical details (the flowers that tell their stories, omg) and of course, a happy ending. Such a solid fairytale, and one I really enjoyed.
Mrs. Dalloway | Virginia Woolf- Holy shit guys. After War and Peace, I was looking for quick reads, and while this is a slim little book, it is dense. So dense, so magically, beautifully brilliantly dense. I can’t even describe how much I loved this novel, and I’m shocked it took me so long to pick up Woolf. I can’t wait to read more from her, because I was completely blown away by this novel, and it’s going straight on to my all time favorites list. Hands down one of the best things I’ve read in the last couple years. It’s all the atmospheric nostalgia, and all the genius, and insight, and lyrical prose I could ever want.
The Age of Innocence | Edith Wharton- After Mrs. Dalloway I decided to stay with the same themes, but go with a different style. I picked up this one because it was another short classic on my shelf, and Wharton swept in and swept me off my feet. The Age of Innocence is truly magnificent, and if you like society novels, this is undoubtedly one of the best of the best. Crisp prose builds the glittering, atmospheric world of old New York and its strict society, which is cleverly and fully drawn. As a reader you can truly feel how suffocating and opulent it is, and Wharton’s tone manages to be lovingly satirical. Ultimately though, this is a bittersweet love story. Watching Newland and Ellen fall together and fall apart, is beautiful and excruciating, and you truly feel for them. Ugh and the ending was just. Dead on perfect. So many layers to this one, and just so, so well written and emotional.
A Little Life | Hanya Yanagihara - What an incredibly heartbreaking and beautiful story! But like most people who loved this book have said, it’s really ALL ABOUT THE PROSE. Yanagihara knows she’s intelligent, witty, and writes accordingly, and I love that she does (you should watch her interviews if you haven’t already). I’m so anxious to read The People in the Trees, and am wishing on all the stars that she finds another story to write about! A Little Life was beautiful, heartbreaking, albeit a little melodramatic, but the characters were so alive—so real. Their names and stories keep replaying in my mind, I imagined scenes they were in and wondered what would happen next. It’s been hard to know their story has ended, and that’s all there is for them. There are many parts I marked that I want to revisit in time, because I can’t imagine not visiting Jude, Malcolm, Willem, and JB again.
Too Loud A Solitude | Bohumil Hrabal - I stumbled on this book from a fellow bookstagrammer, and I’m thrilled my library had a copy. This book is a gem, and one I’ll need to read again, because I’m not sure I got everything the first time. A beautifully, uniquely written story that is reminiscent of Fahrenheit 451, but also completely different. So good and thought-provoking.
Other People’s Love Affairs | D. Wystan Owen - A collection of intertwining short stories that was charming and wonderful to read. I really enjoyed it, but also found myself losing patience as this book kept getting pushed back due to buddy reads and book club. Overall though, I kept hoping for more from it. The stories were good and in decent prose on the surface, but I really did want more.
The Nutcracker | E.T.A. Hoffman - A worthwhile holiday read that is nothing like what you might expect, but that whisks you off into a fantasy land of good vs evil when your toys come to life. I really enjoyed reading this and bringing it to life with a dinner party.
Hercule Poirot’s Christmas | Agatha Christie - What a fun novel to end the year with. I haven’t read an Agatha Christie book since Murder on the Orient Express last year, and before that, I can’t even tell you when, but it’s been ages. This is one of her older novels, and it’s witty, clever, and has the classic language I love. You can really tell a difference between some of her books and this one goes to the top of my favorite Agatha books.
What was the best book YOU read this month??